Updated: Apr 25, 2019
Reading my Jackie magazine, watching Charlie's Angel's, singing along to Thursday's Top Of The Pops, recording the UK Charts off the radio on a Sunday night, in addition to lusting after my eldest sister's Mary Quant make-up collection pretty much sums up my early years. Crazy about cosmetics from a very young age I clearly remember waiting for my sister to go out on a Saturday night, then gleefully opening the Mary Quant compact cases, decorated with the now iconic Daisy motif, all strewn across our shared dressing table.
Given this history, I guess that's why the Mary Quant exhibition feels so special, the exhibits themselves are relatable. Indeed, walking around viewing the clothes on display there's a distinct sense of deja vue, as if I'm revisiting part of my own personal history, in fact it's a pure case of: if I didn't wear it, I had a relative that did! Like a Pandora's box, the exhibition is full of endless amounts of clothes you've dreamt of finding on all those Saturday afternoons spent rummaging through vintage shops, hoping to come across a treasure.
Quant opened her first boutique named Bazaar in 1955. She gradually became so disillusioned with the styles she was stocking that she decided to set about making her own range of clothing which later, would pretty much become 'The London Look.' Shocking for some, too daring for others, Quant's rising hemlines were frequently condemned in more conservative quarters as vulgar, immoral and fit only for "loose" women (ahem!)
The contraceptive pill had led to the sexual liberation of women in the 60s and for many the mini-skirt became synonymous with a mood of female abandonment, excitement and confidence never before seen in the UK. Despite such negative comments from certain sectors of the public and foreign press who delighted in ridiculing her designs, Quant would have the last laugh. Her reputation grew and with this came greater demand and booming sales nationally and internationally, and as a result Quant expanded her business. Since then, such notable fashion designers as Marc Jacobs and Diane Von Furstenburg have been influenced by her creations...viva la revolution! Her innovative styles would dominate London fashion during the 60s and 70s adored, worn or modelled by celebrities such as Audrey Hepburn, Patti Boyd, Jean Shrimpton and of course, who can forget the now legendary collaborations between Quant and Twiggy?!
Her look and creations were modern, fresh and easy to wear. Think geometric hair ( Quant's own hair was famously cut by legend Vidal Sassoon) dramatic colours, upbeat and bold, it was all so effortlessly sexy. Moreover, her clothes were for the most part affordable to the average girl ( Ginger was aimed at this specific market.) Until Quant, only those belonging to higher income brackets could afford to purchase something ' a little different.' The average woman had very little choice, the fashion industry dictated what she should wear. Quant threw this notion out the window by listening, observing, and most importantly, identifying with her customers.
Inspired by the clothes she wore as a child, as well as the attire of dancers, her clothes were playful and allowed freedom of movement.
Accessories were kept to a minimum, designs were usually simple and not overly stylised or cluttered. The mini was frequently teamed with a tight rib jumper, and patterned tights, thereby making even the shortest lengths wearable. These were sold in a glorious array of patterns and colours: Paisley Midnight Blue, Flocked Poppy in brightest Pink, Black Tramlines, White sheer with Daisy Patterns, Polka Dots, Scarlet Red Jive Cuban Heel Backseat tights ....the more theatrical and wilder the names and colours, the better! Working with materials previously ignored by fashion designers, suddenly cute raincoats were appearing on the High Street in PVC and plastic. Finish off the outfit with a bag also in plastic or PVC and you had the quintessential Quant look.
Sexy and sassy underwear to complement her designs, she thought of everything! Much was made from stretchy Lycra, Mary Quant's underwear collection was designed to fit perfectly under her tunic dresses and miniskirts and could be worn together with her distinctive tights.
A piece of UK history:
An outstanding piecing together of a remarkable time in British and fashion history. In order to put this all together the V&A appealed to members of the public to trawl through their closets and lofts and help them to create a display of the now 120 plus items that constitute this exhibition. Below are some more of the wonderful pieces to be seen there. From stunning plastic raincoats to the Daisy Dolls, the Quant exhibition is an absolute treasure trove of collectables, a recommended must-see and a fascinating afternoon out.
The Mary Quant Exhibition at the V&A until Sunday 16 February 2020.
Tickets are £12.00.
For more details : http://www.vam.ac.uk